This month, we are featuring prints of paintings of Dunbar Castle gifted to the Society by founder member John McNie, who was himself an accomplished artist. The paintings were scanned by Pauline Smeed, who provided the text for each print. A selection of links was added by Jim Herring.
Drawn before Victoria Harbour was built and officially opened in 1842, this engraving clearly shows what remained of the castle on the right before the new entrance was made. The archway, thought to be the entrance to the great hall and which bore the coat of arms of the Earls of Dunbar and which collapsed in 1869, can be seen in the centre of the picture. The Duke of Albany’s blockhouse, completed in the early 16th century, lies to the left where it can still be seen today. The curtain wall which connected the blockhouse to the castle collapsed in 1993.
Turner’s original sketchbooks, now held by the Tate Gallery, contain “seventeen etchings and line-engravings” including several drawings of Dunbar Castle, made during his tour of Scotland in 1818. The sketches were in preparation for Sir Walter Scott’s Provincial Antiquities and Picturesque Scenery of Scotland, and Turner’s final painting of the castle.
This image was originally published in Sir Walter Scott’s Border Antiquities of England and Scotland (cover of book). The three women who are seated, chatting, on the rocky shore at Bayswell are in contrast to the fishwife on the rocks behind.
The castle was ordered to be demolished by an act of the Scottish Parliament in 1667. ‘the castell of Dunbar…shall be demolishit, and cassin downe utterlie to the ground, and distroyit in sic wise that no foundation thairof be occasioun to bug thairupon in typme cumming.’ However, remains of the upper floor could still be seen in the early 19th century, including the archway with the coat of arms, mentioned above, which collapsed in a storm two hundred years later. John Greig was an engraver and you can see some of his work here. Luke Clenell was an artist and engraver and you can see some of his work here.
This slightly more romanticised view shows local fishwives and sailors gathered at the foot of the castle, with fishing nets drying and children playing in the sea. Again, the remains of the arched entrance to the great hall can be seen, with the Duke of Albany’s blockhouse on the left. It is thought here that the original painting was also made for Sir Walter Scott’s Provincial Antiquities and was displayed in Abbotsford. You can see examples of the artist John Christian Schetky’s work here and examples of the engraver Edward Goodall here.
This print, from 1827, was made for publication in Vues Pittoresques de l’Ecosse (book cover). An illustrated travel book, the volume was produced in Brussels with text taken largely from the works of Sir Walter Scott. The book featured lakes, waterfalls, abbeys, and castles, as well as city views. Looking towards the castle from Bayswell, again what is left of the entrance to the great hall can be seen. In the foreground is a wreck, a feature of several Dunbar prints from this time. The two men attempting to haul in the remains are wearing kilts! Lithographer and artist Paul Lauters (examples) produced the lithograph from an original painting by Francois Alexandre Pernot (examples) who first visited Scotland in 1824.
This month, we are returning to 1950 and the stranding of 147 pilot whales at Thorntonloch. Jim Herring had a request for his 2016 book Stranded: The Whales at Thorntonloch from a man in Shropshire who had been researching his local area around Ellesmere. He came across photos from a slaughterhouse in Hordley. The photos – some of which are discussed below – are from a National Library of Wales site – link here. The website notes “Images of deceased whales on the back of a truck; they had become stranded off Scottish coast and were sold to the horse and cattle slaughterers T C Price at Hordley. The whales yielded oil, high grade fertiliser and fishmeal”. An extract from a local newspaper indicated that 41 of the 147 whales stranded at Thorntonloch had been transported to the Shropshire slaughterhouse. On page 16 of the whales’ book, the author writes that the Haddingtonshire Courier had reported that the whales went to many parts of Britain, including “Ellesmere in Shropshire”. The hamlet of Hordley is 300 miles from Dunbar and the speed limit for lorries in 1950 was 20mph, so it would have taken a long time for the whales to be transported. The photos are shown here under the Creative Commons Licence. ** A warning. Some people might regard the photos as gruesome!
The first photo above shows the two whales which are almost the length of the lorry and the staff of the slaughterhouse. The photos are obviously staged for the camera, with the slaughterhouse men on the lorry and presumably the three managers/office staff in front. What can also be seen from this photo is, as at Thorntonloch when the whales were loaded on to the lorries, there is a distinct lack of health and safety precautions i.e. this photo could not be taken today. The date on the photos on the website is 30 May 1950. The whales stranded on the 13th May and the last were carted away from the beach on Monday 15th May. This means that the whales had been dead for more than a fortnight. Given that people complained of the smell of the whales on the beach on Monday 15th May, the stench from them by 30th must have been awful, unless there was some method of sanitizing them – unlikely.
If you enlarge this photo, you will see that the men are using a very long and fairly wide-bladed tool and this is held in place by another man holding a rope. These men normally slaughtered and cut up cattle for butchers, so they would be using their normal equipment, which was different from the tools used to cut up whales. After contact with the New Bedford Whaling Museum about the tools in the photo above, the reply was “In closely examining your photos I see nothing to indicate that these men are processing those pilot whales in any traditional whaling fashion. I see no flensing knives, no windlass or capstan, no blubber hooks, pikes or gaffs. In fact, I see no tools whatever, apart from one hand hook and a butcher knife in one of the photos”. Flensing knives (photo) came with different shaped heads and were used to remove the blubber. Scran can tell you more about flensing. For other tools mentioned above, see here. So this would be a new experience for these slaughterhouse men? Would it have been an interesting one?
The final photo above from the collection is perhaps the most interesting – or gruesome? The men appear to be very aware of the camera and are perhaps joking about something. They also appear to be having difficulty removing the outer layer of the whale’s skin – perhaps their tools were insufficient to make this a straightforward process. One of the men is using a hook as well as a knife, while the other man’s knife looks far too small to be effective on this huge sea creature. While this may appear a grisly sight to us, the slaughterhouse men would probably have taken it in their stride – another task, another challenge. In a social sense, the whales would no doubt have been the subject of stories told to families or pals in the pub.
The photo above from the whales’ book also shows the lack of health and safety at the time. One noticeable aspect of this photo is that the men lifting the whale on to the lorry are smoking untipped cigarettes. The photos from Hordley look sanitised – for the camera – and only in the second photo can you see a man – sitting at the rear side of the lorry – who is smoking. It’s unlikely that, if photos had been taken without the workers’ knowledge, at least some of them would have been smoking, given that in 1950, 85% of men admitted that they smoked. The boy in the photo above to the left of the lorry is Sandy Darling who cycled from Stenton to see the whales. An interview with Sandy Darling appeared in The Guardian newspaper’s That’s me in the picture feature and you can read it here.
This month features some photos from the 1920s and focuses on Dunbar Gala days. The photos from the Fancy Dress Parade have been given by DDHS member George Robertson, who has also provided additional information about the photos.
The poster above is pages 2 and 3 of the programme for Dunbar’s Gala Day in 1922. As the enlarged poster shows, this part of the Gala Day took place in Cowan’s Park, which was a wide green expanse taking in today’s Bleaching Field and Dunbar Primary School. In the other 2 pages of the programme, it is noted that there will be Children’s Sports in Cowan’s Park; an auction conducted by Mr George Low; and a Fancy Dress Ball in the Assembly Rooms at 9pm. The programme states that the profits from the Gala Day will to to “Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and Local Charities”. This may have been an annual event during the 1920s, as the Organising Committee urged people to surpass the £160 raised for charity in 1921. This is the equivalent of about £9000 today. Of interest in the poster is the reference to Farm Servants in the Fancy Dress Parade. Despite it being 1922, farm workers were still referred to as servants, an indication of how they were regarded. In the Sports section, there is a Living Wheelbarrow Race, a Four-Legged Race and Quoiting – throwing hoops of various sizes and weights on to metal spikes. The John Gray Centre notes the establishment of a “four pin quoiting ground” at Beltonford Paper Mill (photo and 1865 plans for) in the 1890s.
The photo above, taken at the Castlepark Barracks, shows an imaginative take on a fire engine and firemen. Note the “PHIRE INGIN” powered by the “BILER” above. In the photo, on the far right is George Robertson and next to him, wearing the clown’s nose is his son, also George Robertson i.e. the grandfather and father of the present DDHS member George Robertson. The older George Robertson was by then was a retired marine engineer. He had previously worked for Parson’s Marine Turbines in Newcastle and worked on the Turbinia (good photo), the first steam turbine powered vessel, now in the Newcastle museum. The younger George was a motor mechanic at that time working for Kirkwood’s garage and later for Colin Stark mending busses. The uniforms and axes on them were presumably borrowed from the local fire station.
The photo above shows another imaginative and amusing entry for the Gala Day Parade in July 1922. The Charlie Chaplin like figure on the right is the younger George Robertson. The name of the man in the pilot gear is unknown but the present George Robertson suggested ” I know my father was friendly with the then owner of (I think) the Bellevue Hotel. He took my father flying in a DH Moth (photo of a 1920s DH.51) aircraft and gave him a camera to take an aerial shot of his hotel. This chap may have been him, because that looks like authentic pilot gear for the period”. The pilot is holding what may have been a model of a DH Moth in his left hand, and – a sign of the times – a cigarette in his right hand. It is not recorded how many flights to Mars were done on the day.
The final photo shows the younger George Robertson on the left, on an early motor scooter. You can watch a 1920 video of a motor scooter race here. George is dressed as a vicar and the sign on the front of his scooter reads “A CLERICAL ERROR” – a clever pun. There appear to be several other motor bikes in the photo and this may have been a display as well as a fancy dress parade. Also of interest in the photo (best enlarged) is the extent of Cowan’s Park at this time. There is a clear sight of the parish church to the top left of the photo and the railway line on the right. So, in1922, you were in the country as soon as you came down from the High Street.
This month features images are from our recently scanned slide collection which has been donated to the society over the past 27 years. The scanning was carried out by our member Anthony Jeffrey and we are very grateful to him for all the time he has taken to do this. The theme is the East Beach at different times. The annotated text is partly based on notes provided by Pauline Smeed and Jim Herring added text and links.
In the first photo above, the beach is very active and this may be a weekend photo or a summer holiday depiction. In the middle of the photo, you can see the changing tents for ladies and gents. You can read more on bathing tents (and bathing machines!) in the early 1900s here. The photo presents and interesting mix of people on the beach, from the rather prim looking women and men at the bottom right, in what looks like clothes they might wear to church on a Sunday i.e. dresses and hats for the women and suits and hats for the men. In the middle of the photo, there is a family in swimming costumes and maybe having a picnic. There are also a few deckchairs on the beach, probably hired for the day from the local council. At the far end of the photo, you can see the imposing and very grand looking Roxburghe Hotel, with the roof of the Dunbar Golf Club House showing below it. Bowmont is to the right of the hotel and Roxburghe Park on the left. You can see a good photo of the Roxburghe hotel and you can zoom in to get more detail here.
The second photo (best enlarged) takes us forward perhaps 40 years to c1960s, with Dunbar and its beach looking at its best with a clear blue sky reflected in the calm looking sea. This is a different view from the photo above, as we are now looking from the south. One of the key differences between this photo and a similar one taken today are the buildings in the background. On far right is Macarthur’s Store pre development and there is a fascinating history of the store, also known as Spott’s Girnel or Spott’s Granary, (first noted in 1658) on this Canmore site (good photos). To the left of the store, you can see the tall white upper part of Bernard’s Maltings, now replaced by The Granary flats. Also, in the foreground, the gable end of Cromwell House can be seen, with the Old Ship Inn and neighbouring 18th century properties. On the left the two towers of the Miller & Dudgeon Maltings can be seen. The white buildings in the top left corner are still standing today, surrounded by more modern homes.
The third photo is looking south over the East Beach towards the Parish Church. The absence of the roof on the church dates the photograph to post 1987. On the 3rd January 1987, the church caught fire and was partially destroyed. You can see vivid photos of the fire, with an interesting interview with Ian Hastie here. The beach itself is quiet, with a sprinkling of seaweed near the wall and the water is glistening in the sunshine. The long roof on the right of the photo was a building owned by the local council.
The final photo is also taken from the south and looking across the two beaches. The Bass Rock can be seen in the enlarged photo, so it may have been taken from Roxburghe Park. Also of interest, is the bouncy castle in the centre of the photo. This was part of Johnny’s Amusements next to The Palace of Pleasure, now demolished. The Palace of Pleasure was featured on this site in 2019 with the advert below. Note the Monkey House which would not be allowed today.
Featured in this month’s section are photos taken from the DDHS current exhibition in the Town House – Dunbar, A Safe Haven. This was supposed to open last year but had to be postponed. Fire, siege, occupation, disaster, celebration and working lives are all highlighted in the exhibition. For centuries Dunbar’s coast and harbour area has remained a safe refuge in times of conflict, with a strong community spirit which continues today. Our exhibition looks at just some of the stories, activities and changes, which have taken place there over the years. The exhibition is curated by Pauline Smeed. Additional text is by Pauline Smeed and Jim Herring.
The exhibition is supported with artefacts kindly loaned to us by East Lothian Museums Service, and by local residents. Among them are two medals. The first is the RNLI silver medal, awarded to Coxswain Walter Runciman Fairbairn for gallantry, for the rescue of the crew of the King JaJa, in October 1905. The second medal, the RNLI bronze medal, was awarded to his great grandson, current Coxswain Gary Fairbairn. Again this was for gallantry, for the rescue of two crew members of the yacht Ouhm, in May 2009.
Dunbar, A Safe Haven also complements the Museum Service’s current exhibition running in the Town House Gallery, Brrr, Stories of Dunbar’s Outdoor Swimming Pool. The Town House Museum & Gallery, with covid measures in place, is now open five days a week from Tuesday to Saturday, 1pm-5pm. We are grateful once again to our volunteers who have offered to return to assist in manning our display and to help with queries.
Fishing boats followed the herring shoals and down to the north-east of England. The open-decked Fifies were the most popular fishing boats on the south east coast of Scotland and Glad Tidings is a good example. You can read more about Fifies here (good photos but ignore the apostrophes!). The best known Fifie in relation to Dunbar harbour is The Reaper, which was restored by the Scottish Fisheries Museum (details) and was brought over for people to see. The photo below shows The Reaper in the harbour.
The photo above is looking towards The Hatchery which was just next to the castle. Work began on the Sea Fish Hatchery in the early 1890s. It was an important part of the Fishery Board for Scotland’s research into replenishing sea fish stocks. Harald C Dannevig, a Norwegian expert, was hired to manage the breeding of turbot, sole, plaice and lemon sole on the Dunbar site. You can read more about the hatchery on the John Gray Centre site here. The hatchery was transferred to Aberdeeen after 6 years and became The Aberdeen Marine Laboratory which is still there today as an eminent research centre. Dannevig was recruited by the New South Wales government in Australia and was instrumental in establishing the Australian fishing industry. You read a fascinating article on Dannevig – with good photos – here.
The photo above shows the arduous work done by women, gutting and carefully laying huge amounts of herring in barrels in the early 20th century. In some quarters, the fishwives have been viewed in a romantic way e.g. taking their fish round to the more affluent houses in Dunbar and elsewhere, but the women worked in smelly and often cold conditions with no regard to health and safety. Their hours were long and their wages small. The photo is also interesting for the children sitting on the harbour wall i.e. the women not only did their work with the fish but looked after children as well.
The final photo shows fisherman on the harbourside transferring newly caught herring from a basket into a barrel. The full barrels were then taken to where the fishwives or fisher lassies would gut the herring and repack it into barrels. As you can see in the photo, this was often dirty and smelly work, as well as bring physically arduous. The John Gray Centre has an interesting article (with photos and interviews) on fishing and whaling – see here. You might also want to look at this Scran site about herring fishing in Scotland.
This month, we are going to look at some copies of photos donated to DDHS by Emma Robertson. The photos feature Dunbar Motorcycle Club in the 1920s and some of the information below was also given to DDHS by Emma Robertson.
Fifth from the right is Emma’s grandfather, Giovanni Togneri, who opened the Central Café (now Café Central) in 1916 and ran it until his death in 1952. More information from Emma Robertson:
My grandfather John Togneri came from Tuscany. He was born in 1887 and came to Scotland when he was 13. He worked in Ayrshire in coal mining in an above ground job. He was paid off and came to Dunbar to help his brother Joe in what became the Lido cafe when Joe’s wife Argene had a baby. Her sister Elmina came from Italy to help in the house and met brother John. They married in Our Lady of the Waves. So this was two brothers marrying two sisters.
The first fish and chip shop was on the High Street before moving to the West Port. John and his growing family lived at 33 High Street. The shop started as fish and chips and then the upstairs was opened as a restaurant. A full-time cook was employed and they served lunches and high teas with everything that was made in the fish and chip shop downstairs on the menu as well. When tourism changed and the number of visitors to Dunbar in the summer dropped it was decided to modernise the whole shop and do away with the upstairs restaurant and make the downstairs area into a cafe. A bit more info. John took out his naturalisation papers about 1933 but his brother Joe didn’t or was too late applying and was being deported and was lost at sea on the Arandora Star. Luigi his son became a doctor and served on board ships being torpedoed twice and was lost at sea. His name is on the war memorial.
More information on the Arandora Star was sent to Jim Herring by Malcolm McLeman (ex West Barns):
The name of the ship in this tragic and shameful incident was Arandora Star not Andorra Star as mentioned.
There’s been an-ongoing petition from the Scottish-Italian widows and families to get some Westminster (culpability) recognition for this tragedy but to no avail and more ironic that the Togneri family lost another member at sea actually serving/fighting for the UK and Allied cause.
You can read more on the Arandora Star tragedy on this site, and also this one which contains interviews with survivors. Guiseppe (Joe) Togneri is listed as an internee here.
In the photo above, we see a prosperous looking group of men who are well dressed – note the shirts, ties, waistcoats and expensive looking coats – and possibly made up of mainly business men in Dunbar at the time. The two men on the right are smoking cigarettes and this would have been acceptable in this type of photo in the 1920s. Some of the men here may well have taken part in the Scottish Six Days Trial (scroll down to History).
The photo above was taken outside the wall that ran between the corner opposite the Hillside Hotel towards Parish Church. Jim Herring contacted the National Motor Museum (good photos) to ask if any of the motor cycles – motor bikes nowadays – could be identified. Jonathan Day, who is manager of the Motoring Picture Library replied that “we think it is a Triumph fourth from left and a Scott next to the sidecar outfits” but the photo is not clear enough to identify others. You can see details of Triumphs in the 1920s here and of Scott Motor Cycles here. One of the Scott models was called The Flying Squirrel and, if you are interested in motor cycles, you can watch a video relating to a 1920s model here.
The final photo is dated on the back as Sunday 13/4/24 Peebles. I think we can assume that some/all of the women in the photo may have gone to Peebles in a side-car. The Motor Cycle Club members would have been exclusively male in the 1920s and this photo shows some of the members with (presumably) their wives. Again, we see a group of affluent men and women. Some of the men are in their motor cycling gear while some of the women, showing the fashion of the time, have fur stoles around their necks. It is also noticeable that the men in motor cycling gear are wearing hats rather than – as they would today – helmets.
This month and next month, we are going to look at buildings that have either been demolished or have had a change of use. The photos (from DDHS archives) are of the building that was once there and what the building/space looks like today.
The first photo above shows the Tin Tabernacle which was the hall of St Anne’s Church for many years. The building stood at the top of Parsonspool and has been replaced by the bungalow in the 2nd photo. You can read more about Tin Tabernacles, many of which were temporary churches prior to a permanent church being built, here. DDHS member Stephen Bunyan has written about St Anne’s and the hall, and he notes “The
temporary building was purchased second hand in Falkirk. It cost £27 10/-.The cost of erection was
£85 10/8. A subscription of £70was raised/. The hall was surveyed in 1930. It was reported that it
would last a further ten years and possibly thirty if looked after. On that basis an extension was
built, a porch, a W.C and Kitchen was added at a cost of £52 17/-“. The hall was used by local groups such as the scouts in the 1940s and 1950s and concerts were held there in the 1950s an 1960s. Stephen also notes that the hall was the venue of a nursery in the 1970s. Jim Herring has gathered some memories of the hall and these include pipe band practice from IM It was also there in the hall that we practiced marching for the first time, to start with we would march round the hall in circles in single file, then progress in rows marching up and down. It wasn’t that big a hall. We practised on Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings. TB remembers a table tennis competition in the early 1960s. He won the competition and went on to represent Dunbar in the East Lothian wide contest in Tranent. Many people remembered going to the nursery and some remembered The Tufty Club which was formed to encourage road safety. Other memories were of highland and tap dancing, practice for the band Barney, whist drives and later discos.
The Victoria Ballroom was originally built as a gymnasium for the soldiers billeted in the nearby barracks. The gymnasium was built in 1913 for soldiers who were housed for certain periods. In WW2, the barracks was used by the Officer Cadet Training Unit (good photos and interviews) and the soldiers did some training and fitness sessions in the gymnasium. There were dances during the war and particularly after the war in what was still the gymnasium. In researching his book Dunbar in the 1950s, Jim Herring interviewed band leader Toe Gillan who often played there. In the interview, Toe Gillan said that, because the gymnasium had been built by and for the army, it probably had the finest dance floor in Scotland in the 1950s and beyond. The late Jean Brunton remembered going to dances when the OCTU soldiers were there and Toe Gillan’s band was playing. The gymnasium was converted into the Victoria Ballroom in the early 1960s after the County Council took control of the barracks. In the 1960s, quite a few DDHS members will remember going to the dances there, and seeing local group Nick and the Sinners and popular Fife group The Mark V who once appeared on the BBC’s Juke Box Jury – alas without success. Very famous groups appeared at the Victoria Ballroom, such as The Bachelors, The Yardbirds, The Tornadoes, plus The Searchers, who had afternoon tea at the St George Hotel, as well as dinner and overnight accommodation at The Roxburghe Hotel. In the 1980s, the ballroom became a venue for professional wrestling which was popular on TV at that time. The building deteriorated and was demolished in 1989. You can see some of the adverts for the Victoria Ballroom here.
The first photo above – a proof copy – shows children enjoying the trampolines at the amusements which were situated near the East Beach. The Palace of Pleasure or Johnny’s as it was known locally, was a hub for tourists and many remember going there, where people would play on slot machines, play bingo, visit the monkey house – recalled as being smelly – or take their children to the carousels and trampolines – see the enlarged photo. Johnny’s was particularly busy on wet days or when the haar rolled in for 3 days at a time. People could also buy snacks, drinks and ice cream at the REFRESHMENTS SHELTER seen in the photo. The heyday of Johnny’s was in the 1960s when Dunbar’s population doubled (at least) with the influx of tourists. The busiest times were in July in the first fortnight – Edinburgh Trades Holidays – and second fortnight – Glasgow Fair holidays.
This month, we are going to continue looking at buildings that have either disappeared or changed in some way.
The first photo above shows the entrance to Winterfield Park, in the 1930s. The park was designated as The Public Park in 1920 and was built on land owned by St Clair Cunningham. The third photo shows the name of the park with the Dunbar crest on the front, although there is no date to tell us when the plaque was put up. The second photo shows the entrance as it is today and the view looks very similar to the one c1930s. There are some significant differences. Firstly, the extensive gardens next to the tennis court have been replaced mainly with grass. Secondly, behind the tennis courts, there is a red tiled building which was formerly the ticket office/changing rooms/toilets in the 1950s and 1960s. There may have been a ladies tennis match on when the original photo was taken as the players are all in their whites. Although the courts appear to be green in colour, former members of the tennis club in the 1950s are sure that these were certainly not grass courts, so the photo may have been enhanced at some point. Jim Herring contacted leading Dunbar historian David Anderson and he produced the definitive answer i.e.
Your image is from an Edwards of Selkirk photo, I think. His number sequence is a means of dating, but only approximately. If it is Edwards then this is either 2308 or 2547 (don’t have my scans here). In either case taken after 1936 but before 1939. Hence the vanishing railings – still plenty time for the war to take them. Pretty sure the courts were never grass – rolled & crushed cinders were cheap as waste from the town’s gas works, or similarly rolled & crushed burnt shale from Midlothian oil works served the same purpose. It’s all false colour on the pic anyway, so no telling if the courts are actually orange or grey (or red from scraped bloody knees). The flowerbeds survived along the side until the early 70s at least, albeit smaller. I think the kiosk was still there then, too (storing putting stuff too?), although the long changing rooms on the west side had arrived.
Finally, in the distance, you can see what was Winterfield Pavilion, of which, more later. In today’s photo, you can see the banner for the tennis company Yonex on the courts. No advertising in the 1930s-1960s.
The first photo above shows the public toilets and cloakrooms in the High Street. Next to the toilets, you can see the signs for the Dunbar British Legion, the blue one jutting out and the black one above the entrance to the Legion Close leading to the Legion buildings. In today’s photo, there is only a blue sign above the entrance. The first photo may be from the 1960s and next to the cloakrooms was La Femme, which was a clothes shop managed by Janie Lister. The shop was very popular with women at the time as it stocked a range of fashinable women’s clothing. In today’s photo, the shop is now Lewis George hairdressers. In both photos, you can see that there is an old Esso Blue Paraffin sign, and this was part of Dickson’s the ironmongers shop. The toilets and cloakrooms came to the aid of many summer visitors in the 1950s and 1960s, especially when it rained and bus parties had to wait until a certain time to re-join their bus. To use these toilets, people had to put an old penny (1d) in the slot and this is thought to be the origin of the term “spend a penny”. It was also the origin of the well-known graffiti in the toilets, which began “Here I sit…”.
The first photo above shows the doocot at Friarscroft, which stands to the left of the main road opposite the western end of Delisle Street. This Camore site tells us that “The small house of Trinitarian or Red Friars at Dunbar is stated to have been ‘biggit and foundit’ by Cristiana de Brus, countess of Dunbar, this foundation probably taking place in 1240-8. The priory was dissolved in 1529”. The impressive building was originally a tower in the friary church which was 39m long by 8m wide, so it must have been an imposing presence in its day and it would have dominated all other, much smaller buildings around it. The Camore site also refers to a cemetery to the south of the church and evidence of “medieval ploughing” to the north. To read more about the history of Friarscroft and of the excavations done there in 1981, see here. The photo is of course from much more modern times and Pauline Smeed commented “The buildings on the right are farm cottages with the horse mill, now converted and still there today on the corner by Friarscroft. The chimney and tank in the distance are the old gasworks, now Graham Place (named after Isa Graham). The long white building on the left before the Bleachingfield is the old washhouse. You can just see some washing on the line on the left side”. The first photo cannot be copied today because of the planting of trees, but the solid tower/doocot still stands as seen in the second photo. Third photo is taken from the car park of the houses at Friarscroft and you can clearly see the modernised horse mill building. The architectural structure of the horse mill is described in this Canmore site.
This month we are still looking at buildings that have changed or disappeared.
The photo above was taken in 1935 and the John Gray Centre annotation states that “Traditionally maypole dancing was done by women, but later became popular with children. Each child holds one of the coloured ribbons and circles the maypole with a hopping, skipping step. Some of the children dance in one direction while the others dance the opposite way around the pole”. Looking at the crowds watching this event, this celebration of May Day was obviously very popular. The pavilion aka Winterfield Pagoda was originally built to house Pierrot shows and you can read more about Scottish Pierrots here. In the 1960s, the pavilion was converted into a toilet/shower/storage facility for the caravan park. The photo below was featured on the Resources Pages in 2019 (scroll down to June 2019.)
The park was used for many purposes in the 20th century, such as sheepdog trials, shows and circuses. The pavilion deteriorated and was demolished in 2016. You can see 15 photos of Winterfield Park and the now dilapidated pavilion here. Today, there is no trace of the pavilion but the park remains as a space for walking and sport, and admiring the wild flowers, past their best in the photo below.
The photo above shows the Playhouse Picture House/Cinema. The Playhouse was built in 1937 and is featured in Jim Herring’s book Dunbar in the 1950s. It was much bigger than people expected it to be and bandleader George “Toe” Gillan stated that the people who were responsible for estimating the size of the cinema came to Dunbar in the summertime. George Gillan continued “Now Dunbar was packed to the gunnels with visitors in the summertime and it was estimated that the population could have doubled. So they decided to build this big cinema, and people often wondered why Dunbar got a big, palatial-looking picture house, which they thought might have been more suitable for a much bigger town”.
The photo above shows the inside of the building and George Gillan’s term palatial is not far off the mark. The Art Deco design can be seen on the ceiling, the lights and beside the screen. You can read more about Art Deco cinemas here. The heyday of the Playhouse was in the 1950s and 1960s when popular pictures/films had queues stretching down Countess Road on Saturday evenings. The audiences declined in the 1970s and the building became too expensive to repair. It was demolished in 1988 and replaced by a medical centre.
The site of the old cinema – seen above – is now home to the Cherrytrees Nursery for children. The picture house is gone as are the adjacent buildings – a former shoe shop owned by Frank Shields and the Birrell’s sweetie shop. You can see a 1952 video of Birrell’s sweetie factory here. In both photos, the sturdy stone wall is still there.
The photo above shows what was once Stark’s garage, with the offices next to it. This garage was well-known for its Roto-Moto facility, whereby cars could drive into the garage for petrol and the car would be turned around to face the high street on a turntable, thus allowing the driver to avoid reversing. After asking for comments on the photo, Jim Herring could not find anyone who could identify the person holding the petrol pump. As the the two cars seen in the photo, the car next to the attendant may have been a Hillman Super Minx and the car to the right a Mini Van. At this time – 1950s/1960s – there were no service stations/garages as we know them now, whose sole purpose is to sell petrol. Also, there was no such thing as self-service, at least in small towns like Dunbar, at this time, so the photo is relevant to Dunbar’s social history.
Within Stark’s Garage in the 1950s, there was a television/radio repair shop and the photo above – copy donated to DDHS by Emily Winter (née Preston) – shows a bill sent to her father in Ash Grove in 1957. There were very few televisions in Dunbar at this time and most people could only have the wireless/radio for entertainment. You can see at the top left, under the Esso Dealer sign, the handwritten Radio Dept. Early TVs had valves which could be replaced – here it is a Mallard valve (photo) – and resistors (detail and photos). On the bill, you can see that one or more resistors had burned out and needed to be replaced. Today’s TVs have no valves or resistors and are unlikely a) to need repair or b) be capable of being repaired.
The view today is somewhat different, with the Post Office now where the garage offices used to be and the flats next door replacing the old building above the garage. The present Post Office replaced the old one across the road and the Old Post Office building is now Hector’s restaurant.
Three more old and new views/buildings in Dunbar this month.
According to this site, “Dunbar Cottage Hospital has its origins in the Battery Hospital, a small military hospital which functioned during World War I. At the end of the War local doctors and others decided to utilise the building to found a cottage hospital. Dunbar and District Cottage Hospital opened in July 1919 and continued to operate in the Battery Hospital building until December 1926. Funds were raised to purchase a larger building and in 1927 the Managers acquired Yorke Lodge: the house was altered and opened as a cottage hospital in May 1927. On transfer to the National Health Service in 1948, the hospital became part of East Lothian Hospitals Board of Management. At this time its name was changed to Dunbar Cottage Hospital, and its bed complement was 13”.
The map above shows Yorke Lodge (circled) which later became the Cottage Hospital (name added). The map is from the National Library of Scotland collection. Also on the map is Seafield Cottage, now known as Seafield House, as well as Kirk Hill which stands opposite the Parish Church.
The site of the old Cottage Hospital/Yorke Lodge is now occupied by Lammermuir House care home (photo above), so the nursing/medical use of the site continues.
The photo above shows the wash houses at the Bleachingfield being demolished. Many women had to use wash houses in the early 20th century in Dunbar and other towns and cities in the UK, as there were no facilities in their homes to do large washings of clothes. You can read some people’s memories of wash houses in Scotland here. David Anderson commented “I’ve always assumed they (the wash houses) were built when the bleaching field was laid out in the 18th century, originally for lease to a professional bleacher & his staff. I’ve not looked in the council records to confirm this – but the OS of 1853/4 shows the green is of commercial size. The wash houses were later adapted for domestic use”. Also ” the wash houses’ original water source was the local spring (which was knocked back as source for the mid 19th century water scheme) aka the Lady Well, which was on the site of the garage (now gone)”. The garage was situated on the corner of the main road. David provided another source i.e.
06 January 1781 Tack between Robert Fall, Esq, of Underedge and James Reid, gardiner (sic) in Dunbar “Robert Fall at will with the advice of John Johnston, to plant at will standart (sic) trees in the upper garden … Robert Fall to keep (all) walls in repair… (special clauses) as the pipes of the reservoir to the town’s bleaching field run under the garden (access for repair and terms of compensation by or for James Reid”. The reservoir was above the old Masonic Lodge at Abbeylands – the house on the corner of the road going to the station.
Today, the town end of the Bleachingfield is occupied by the Cooperative Store but the view up to the houses at Friarsbank remains much the same.
The final view this month is of the High Street. While the postcard appears to be dated 12 July 1932, the photograph is not necessarily of the same year. This site estimates that the photograph on the postcard, with the serial number 205.840 (bottom right), was registered in 1928. If you enlarge the photo, you will see the Lido Café on the left hand side, with the newsagents A P Thomson next door. Adjacent to Thomson’s may have been Winter’s grocer shop and next to that Jimmy Law’s hairdresser shop, although they may have come later. On the right hand side, you can see a large sign for Melville Motors. Note the absence of cars on the High Street and the boys in short trousers, nonchalantly chatting in the middle of the street.
This is one of the famous Valentine’s postcards. There is large archive of Valentine’s photography and postcards at the University of St Andrews – “Valentines of Dundee, the well-known photographic company which produced Scottish topographical views from the 1860s, and later became internationally famous as the producers of picture postcards was founded in 1851 by James Valentine (1815-1879)”. The writing on the card reads “Having a great time here. Weather not too bad, but cleaning up campsite splendid (sic) down near the beach. Love to all, Robert”. The weather – “not too bad” may have been mixed for July in Dunbar. There are many more Valentine’s postcards of Dunbar in the DDHS collection and you can also find some by searching for “valentine’s postcards Dunbar” on your chosen search engine. The stamps have the head of George V on them and you can read more about such stamps here.
The photo above looks at today’s High Street – from further down than in the postcard – but most of the shops are obscured with cars and vans. Also, the pavement on the right and left of the photo has encroached on to the road surface. The postcard’s cobbles have been replaced with tarmacadam but many of the buildings on both sides of the street are the same as in the postcard photo.
Three more postcards from the DDHS’ collection this month for the Then and Now feature.
The postcard above, showing various views of Dunbar in the late 1950s, is another Valentine’s card. On the reverse side, it reads “SILVERESQUE” 3059v Style Postcard. Copyright. Published by Valentine and Sons Ltd., Dundee and London”. Referring to silveresque, this site notes that “Carbo-type and Silveresque cards were printed in black & white line block halftones to simulate photographs, while Carbotone cards were printed in sepia. Also in sepia was their Photo-gravure series”. In the enlarged photo, you will see that the Winterfield Promenade is referred to as THE PROMENADE although, strictly speaking it is THE WEST PROMENADE as there is an east promenade on the other side of the town i.e. in the distance on the bottom left photograph. The main photo at the top – of the swimming pool – looks to have been taken on a quiet day. The postcard has a serrated edge which has not scanned in.
Back of 1958 postcard
The writing above is “Here are some more views of Dunbar. The holiday time has passed quickly, but we have had a very pleasant time here. We have managed a few picnics and visits to some beaches in spite of indifferent weather. We shall be coming home on Friday evening, and we look forward to seeing you during the weekend. Trust you are well – R&K Clywson (?)”. It is addressed to Miss Langlands, 493 Strathmartine Road, Downfield, Dundee. The postmark is 14 August 1958 Dunbar East Lothian. It is interesting that the weather is described as “indifferent” – maybe rain, maybe haar for a week? A weather site stated that for UK in August 1958 “The most notable events of the month were the thunderstorms” with Aberdeen having 2 days of thunder. This postcard message is more than a holiday report as it refers to the coming weekend.
The bottom left photo on the postcard is entitled EAST BAY. The photo above was taken from the east beach promenade by Jim Herring on 17 December 2021. Unsurprisingly, there are no holidaymakers but the sand on the beach has returned. There was of course, no smoke from the Cement Works chimney in 1958, but the view is very similar.
The postcard above is dated 7 August 1968. The reverse side shows that this is an example of the “M and L National Series”. The postcards were produced by Millar and Lang Ltd who were “Founded in 1903 and based originally in Glasgow and latterly in London. Initially they issued black and white real photograph postcards but in the 1930s they also started publishing hand coloured cards… Many of their cards were published using the name ‘National Series’”. The view of the harbour at the top left looks like it was taken from the castle.
The handwriting here suggests that this may have been sent by a boy/young man named Callum, whose accommodation was obviously close to the shore, with the beach (i.e. not the view) only 5 yards away. Hunting for crabs along the rocks at Dunbar would have been a popular pastime for young people, especially with “excellent” weather.
The photo above is a contemporary view of Dunbar harbour, taken from across the harbour rather than from the now inaccessible castle. While the background buildings have changed, the harbour itself, built in 1842, remains much the same. You can read more about the “new” harbour here.
The postcard above is unusual in that the sender has chosen to write on the front of the card and not on the back. The message is “Dear M, Our party numbers 13, two more expected tomorrow. This is a picture of our abode”. It is signed by what may be N J M. The writing is quite formal e.g. “abode” and not “hotel” or “accommodation” and suggests that the writer may have been fairly affluent, in that he (probably) uses his initials and not his name. The publisher of the postcard on the left hand side reads “Gibson, Gateshead on Tyne”. Examples of Gibson postcards can be found on the internet but no information could be found on the company itself.
While there is no message on the area delineated as “This space may now be used for writing on – for Inland Postage only”, the postcard is addressed to Miss M Blanche, Murray House, Perth. The sender was obviously confident that Murray House could be identified without a street address and this suggests that the house was of some substance. You can check out this impressive building here and recognise that the sender was justified using only the house name and the town.
Today, the old Albert Temperance Hotel is known as the Dunmuir Hotel and the photo above is taken from their website. In the enlarged photo, you can clearly see the “1902” sign on the hotel and it appears that the postcard may have been sent in the 2nd year of the hotel’s operation.
For the last month of 2021, we will look at three more postcards, this time of the former outdoor swimming pool in Dunbar. The pool was a great attraction particularly in the 1950s and 1960s when it attracted many tourists.
The postcard above from 1969 shows a busy day at the pool, with many people enjoying the water or the warm sunshine at the edge of the pool. The pool is dominated by the Doo Rock, which was wrongly named on some postcards as Dhu Rock i.e. Black Rock. Maps from the 1890s clearly label this as Dove Rock. While the pool is no longer there, the view behind the pool has not changed and the fishing boat approaching the harbour and surrounded by seagulls is still a common sight today.
The message on the back of the postcard begins traditionally, with “Enjoying our holiday very much. The change is doing us a lot of good”. This is followed by a health report “Norman looks a lot better”. It then begins to resemble a letter “Sorry we won’t be able to visit you this time” and becomes more intriguing. “I’m dying to know if you have had any news yet?”. So this postcard varies from the usual “Weather is lovely. Wish you were here”. Or less politely “Weather is here. Wish you were lovely”. The postcard on the back refers to “The Bathing Pool, Dunbar” and there were a number of names given to the pool over the decades.
Above is today’s view but with less elevation, of the area depicted on the front of the postcard. When the outdoor pool was demolished in the 1980s, it was generally agreed that the restoration of the site back to its natural state had been very successful.
The postcard front above shows the Ladies Bathing Pool in 1919. Mixed bathing pools came later and at different times across the UK. The John Gray Centre tells us that “The first design for the pool was built in the late 1880s and contained brick and concrete dressing houses. Even at the time it was considered a work in progress and had plans for an upgrade and a new Pavilion at the ladies pool built in 1904. It consisted of 14 dressing rooms and a seated veranda”. If you enlarge the photo, you will see that on the right hand side of the pool, there is a concrete sea wall, but it is not at a height to stop the sea coming into the pool at high tide. Also the area in front of the pavilion is still rock and sand. This site tells us that the estimated date of when this photo was registered as a Valentine’s postcard was 1913.
The back of the card reads “Dunbar. Thought this P.P.C. might interest you”. Note the use of the P.P.C. i.e. Picture Post Card and this is how postcards would have been referred to at the time. Again, the greeting is followed by news which might normally have gone in a letter. “Uncle John is not very well [and] he has a very sore throat & it is so important to get well again. Of course it is the busy time”. What we do not know is a) whether Uncle John is on holiday with the person (no name, just love & xx) or this is general news and b) the busy time for what? Uncle John’s business? The final line is “love to baby boy and Walter”. Another sign of the times and the status of women is that the (picture) postcard is addressed to “Mrs Walter Falgate”. It was hard to work out the first line of the address, so contact was made with Cambridge Central Library. From there, Mary Burgess replied “Checking the 1919 Spalding’s Directory of Cambridge (page 28), I have discovered that Walter Robert Falgate lived at Rotherwick House”. This substantial house – see here for the house today – would indicate that the Falgates were a reasonably wealthy family. It is now only known as 20 Cavendish Avenue.
With the postcard above, we move on to 1927. This is another Valentine’s postcard and it is estimated that the photograph was registered in 1925. The John Gray Centre tells us “The popularity of the pool led to more improvements in the early 1920s when the wall separating the sea and the pool was raised and a promenade was added. Several years later in 1928 a boating pond was added, and only 1 year later in 1929 further extensions were made”. As you can see from the photo above, there has been a great improvement in the pool on the pavilion side, with areas for seating as well as two lines of deck chairs, probably with the best view across the pool. There appears to be an event taking place on the photo and the back of the postcard below gives us a clue. There are also diving boards in front of the pavilion. In the 1969 postcard, the diving boards are at the opposite end of the pool. One significant change from 1919 is that the name of the pool has been changed – on this postcard at least – from Ladies Bathing Pool to The Swimming Pond, indicating a move to mixed bathing.
The writing on the back of the postcard is very faint but should be clearer in the enhanced version. The message reads “What do you think of this for Dunbar [?]. We were at a swimming gala last Sat and it was very much like this. Have enjoyed ourselves immensely but the time has just flown. I suppose you will be on holiday now. Will see you soon. Love Isobel and Mary (possibly). It is addressed to “Miss Hamilton, Smailholm, by Kelso, Roxburghshire”. The John Gray Centre tells us, on pages devoted to the Brr exhibition on Dunbar’s outdoor pool, that “In the late 1920s the [Dunbar] Swimming Gala Committee of three Council members liaised with the local swimming club to promote the swimming galas over the summer”. The outdoor pool was the arena for many swimming galas continued through the decades, and were very popular in the 1950s and 1960s in particular. Smailholm Mains is now a holiday cottage.